Each Monday, Brian Billick provides a coach's perspective on a consequential decision from Sunday, as well as a compelling take on a trending topic. Here are his thoughts from Week 3:
The coach's decision: Jacksonville made the only call it could at QB.
As the Jacksonville Jaguars fell behind the Indianapolis Colts by 30 points in the first half of their Week 3 matchup, the chants for Blake Bortles echoed throughout EverBank Field -- and, with an 0-3 record looming, the coaching staff relented, benching veteran quarterback Chad Henne and beginning the second half with the rookie under center.
It wasn't supposed to be this way, according to what the team had been saying. Consider coach Gus Bradley's comments when discussing the plan back in May: "We do feel good about where Blake's at, but we feel like this time that he has under Chad, a year to develop, will be really good for him in the end result. So our plan is to stay really strong with this."
Ultimately, though, what choice did the Jaguars have? They were outscored by 95 points in the eight-quarter stretch preceding halftime on Sunday, losing to both the Eagles and the Washington Redskins. Henne had completed just 53 percent of his passes, and he had been sacked 16 times in 10 quarters of work. Sure, it wasn't all his fault. Purported bell-cow running back Toby Gerhart is averaging 2.4 yards per carry and has 82 rushing yards total. The defense ranks dead last in the NFL in points allowed, total defense and passing defense, and it's tied for last in rushing defense.
That's exactly why it was time to make a change. It's not like Bortles was going to earn a graduate degree sitting behind Henne. As I wrote before the season started, I'm of the opinion that quarterbacks selected in the first round should be starting as rookies. Now the third overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft can learn on the fly. Bortles' development is more important than wins and losses -- and quite frankly, this group was going to lose, anyway.
Though the opposite was said in public, this might have been Bradley's plan all along. Jacksonville must have anticipated that an 0-3 start was in the cards, with two of the team's first three games coming against playoff squads from 2013 (the Eagles and Colts) and two games coming on the road (in Philly and Washington). This was likely to be as good a time as any to get Bortles on the field, especially as the Jags' bye doesn't come until Week 11; no other spot on the schedule jumps out as an obvious place in which to debut the rookie.
Yes, making his first career regular-season start in a cross-country visit to the 2-1 San Diego Chargers figures to be a tall task. But in all honesty, when your team is winless and the boo birds are out in full force at home, it can be easier to focus on the road.
What we saw from Bortles in the second half of Sunday's loss to Indy -- 14 of 24 for 223 yards, two touchdowns and two picks -- is about what we can expect from him this season. He is likely to have a typical rookie year, particularly with the supporting cast he's been given, completing less than 60 percent of his passes and posting a touchdown-to-interception ratio that is basically even. But this is more about 2015 than 2014.
The coach's take: On the myth of the shutdown corner.
One can argue about the NFL's best cornerback until one is blue in the face, but I'm not sure the term "shutdown corner" should be included in the debate.
It's unfair and totally unrealistic to leave a cornerback alone on an island with the opposing team's best wide receiver and expect him to completely shut out his opponent for a full game, even when it comes to the elite talents -- Richard Sherman, Patrick Peterson, Darrelle Revis and Joe Haden -- that belong in the discussion.
Haden's troubles don't stop there. Against the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday, he allowed Steve Smith to rack up 101 yards on five receptions, the worst coming on the final drive of Cleveland's narrow loss. With 1:28 left and the Browns clinging to a one-point lead, Smith beat Haden with a stutter move up the sideline and hauled in a 32-yard catch that set up the winning kick for Baltimore. That follows a Week 1 performance in which Haden allowed Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Antonio Brown to compile 116 yards and a touchdown on five catches.
Revis, meanwhile, had his roughest outing of the season against rookie quarterback Derek Carr and a cast of Oakland Raiders receivers you'd be hard pressed to even name. Carr completed five of the six attempts he threw in Revis' direction Sunday, and while the New England Patriots' pulled out the win, Revis didn't notch a single pass defensed.
As for Peterson, he hasn't cost the 3-0 Arizona Cardinals, but he hasn't registered much on the stat sheet, either, posting just one pass breakup (against the San Francisco 49ers' Colin Kaepernick on Sunday) and no interceptions thus far. While that might be indicative of his "shutdown" status, it's important to note that Arizona's pass defense ranks just 19th.
Then there's Sherman. Though he is, for my money, the best of the bunch, one can make a case that the Seattle Seahawks' "Legion of Boom" as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts. There is no question that Sherman benefits from playing in front of Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor, the two best safeties in the game. Sherman's supporting cast is not even in the same ballpark as those of others.
After all, there's a reason that, in an offseason that saw Sherman, Peterson, Haden and Revis sign big-money contracts, Thomas landed a record-setting deal of his own: The Seahawks recognize that even the man who is arguably the best cornerback in the NFL can't do it by himself.
Follow Brian Billick on Twitter @CoachBillick.